Sweet Bread Recipe – Basic Sweet Yeast Dough
This sweet bread recipe makes a beautiful, soft, lightly sweetened, and buttery bread loaf that’s delicious as toast with your morning coffee or tea. Top it with some butter and jam, and it’s as good as any cake or dessert!
Lots of butter and egg yolks keep this bread recipe perfectly soft for a while. But, if you have leftovers, they make amazing french toast or a french toast casserole. Anyways you slice it; it’s a winner!
If you’ve ever had Challah or brioche bread, this one is very similar. Warm out of the oven, you’ll be fighting every fiber of your being not to eat the whole thing! You’ve been warned 😉
This recipe is also the same one I use when I make any kind of filled buns or pastries, or rolls. One batch will give you about 16 good-sized buns of your choice.
Things to make with this sweet yeast bread dough recipe:
- sweet bread
- cinnamon rolls – these are the best cinnamon rolls we’ve had
- poppy seed rolls
- cheesecake danishes
- jam-filled buns
- cherry pie filling filled buns
- chocolate babka
Sweet Bread Ingredients:
Scroll to the bottom for a full printable recipe and instructions.
The basis for any good bread is good and unexpired yeast. I use active dry yeast or Platinum Superior Baking yeast. The latter always produces better-baked goods with more of a rise without collapsing when out of the oven.
Also, anytime I make yeast goods, I use Canadian flour. It is higher in gluten than regular American all-purpose flour, which yields better results, especially in this sweet bread recipe. A good alternative to Canadian flour is bread flour.
How to make Sweet Bread Recipe
- Start by ensuring that your yeast is active by dissolving the active dry yeast in warm milk and leaving it in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes. If the yeast has foamed, and risen slightly, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, discard the yeast, and do not start this yeast bread with the recipe until you have unexpired active yeast.
Make the sweet bread dough.
- To a mixer bowl, add the sifted flour, sugar, sour cream (pic 1), remaining milk, and the risen yeast mixture (pic 2).
- Knead on low speed using the hook attachment until the dough somewhat comes together (pic 3).
- Then turn up the speed slightly and continue kneading until it becomes very stretchy and tacky to the touch. Add the butter and salt (pic 4) and knead them into the dough. Sometimes, tearing the dough into chunks helps to incorporate the butter (pic 5).
- The dough is well kneaded when you’re able to stretch a piece of the dough into a thin film/window without it tearing. This is called a “windowpane test,” which means that the gluten is well-developed and will hold up the structure of the dough as yeast fills it with air bubbles.
Proof & Shape
- Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover it with a tea towel (pic 7) and allow to proof until doubled in size (pic 8).
- Next, dust your work surface with flour (pic 9) and add the dough (pic 10).
This recipe makes one large braid, if you wish to have smaller bread loaves divide the dough into two and braid 2 braids instead of one.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces – this is best done by weighing the dough (pic 11). Shape each piece into a tight ball, then roll it into a 20-inch rope ( pic 12).
- Pinch the three ends together, then shape a tight braid, finishing by pinching the ends together again. Tuck both ends of the braid slightly underneath itself for better visual appeal.
- Carefully transfer the braid to a baking sheet (pic 13) and leave it in a warm, draft-free place to proof until doubled in size ( pic 14).
- Then, brush with a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds (pic 15) or poppy seeds (optional).
- Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is evenly golden brown. Another way to ensure that the sweet bread is baked through is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the middle. It should register 195F when the bread is ready.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting or serving.
How to store this bread loaf?
Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or cut the sweet bread in half and store it in a gallon-sized ziplock bag for up to a week. If you are not planning to eat within a day or two, freeze it in an airtight bag.
To thaw, leave on the counter until completely thawed or microwave in 30-second intervals until it’s soft and no longer frozen. Or, place in a preheated to 350F oven for about 10 minutes for that fresh-out-of-the-oven taste.
Other Yeast Baked Goods to try:
Sweet Bread Recipe
This sweet bread recipe makes a beautiful, soft, lightly sweetened and buttery bread loaf that’s delicious as a toast with your morning coffee or tea.
- 1 cup warm whole milk heated to no higher than 100F
- 2 tsp Instant dry yeast or active dry yeast (I use Platinum Superior Baking Yeast)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (bread flour or Canadian flour works best)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3 oz unsalted butter, softened, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Egg wash (whisk together)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp water
- 3 to 4 tbsp sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)
Check the yeast: (see footnotes if you'd like to make this dough in the breadmaker)
Dissolve 2 tsp of yeast with 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp of sugar from the overall amount and leave in a warm location until frothy, about 10-15 minutes. If the mixture does not froth up and rise, discard the yeast and start over when you have a fresh batch of dried yeast.
Combine all ingredients:
Into a bowl of a mixer, sift 3 cups of flour. Then add 1/3 cup sugar, remaining 1/2 cup warm milk, 4 egg yolks, 2 tbsp sour cream, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and the risen yeast mixture. By hand, using a spoon or the hook of the mixer, quickly mix the ingredients until a rough, shaggy mixture forms.
Knead: Attach the hook back to the mixer and knead on low speed (speed 2 to 3 on a Kitchenaid mixer) for about 20 minutes or until the dough stops sticking to the side of the bowl, feels elastic, and is tacky to touch. If the dough is adequately kneaded, a small piece can be stretched into a see-through "window" without tearing.
Pro tip: Do not over-knead past a point where the dough is elastic and stretchy. If the gluten is overworked, it will tear, leaving you with a chunky dough that doesn't have the strength to hold a good rise of the dough.
Add 3 oz of butter and 1/4 tsp of the salt and knead it into the bread until no streaks of butter are seen (~5-7 minutes). Sometimes tearing the dough into chunks helps to incorporate the butter easier/faster.
Oil the sides of the bowl and the dough. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
Boil a cup of water in a microwave for several minutes. Remove the cup with water. Place the bowl with the dough in the warm microwave for the dough to rise. This gives the dough a nice warm place without being too hot.
This recipe makes one large braid. To make two smaller sweet yeast bread loaves divide the dough into two, then shape two separate braids instead of one like the recipe instructs.
Once risen, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Weighing the dough is the best way to divide the dough evenly. Next, roll each piece into a tight ball, then into a 20-inch log. If the dough is hard to stretch or it springs back too much, cover it with a tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes. This will relax the gluten and make it easy to roll.
Pinch the ends of the 3 strands together at one end, then braid them into a braid pinching the ends together.
Now, tuck both ends of the braid underneath itself slightly to give it a better shape.
Transfer the sweet yeast braids to a 12"x18" baking sheet pan. Space them evenly. Cover with a clean tea towel. Transfer to a warm place once again until the braid doubles in size or a light pressing of the finger doesn't make the dough spring back quickly, but instead slowly springs back while still leaving slight indent.
Prep before baking: Once doubled in size preheat the oven to 350F with the baking rack centered.
Brush the braid with a whisked egg yolk and water and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds if you wish. Applying the egg yolk mixture several times will give you a darker glaze once baked.
Bake the braid for about 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. You can also check for doneness with a thermometer. The center of the thickest part should register 195°F.
If the top starts to brown before the inside registers 195F, loosely tent the sweet yeast bread with foil.
Once baked, remove from the oven to a cooling rack and cool completely before cutting or eating.
Sweet Bread Recipe for Breadmaker
To make the sweet bread recipe in the breadmaker, add the ingredients in the following order: milk, active dry yeast, vanilla extract, room temperature butter, salt, egg yolks, sour cream, flour, and sugar. Turn the bread maker to a 1.5-hour dough cycle and allow it to run through. Then, continue with steps 5 and beyond.